All the characters in this story belong to their original creators and/or the Highlander powers that be. I'm just borrowing them for a bit of fun and will return them unharmed. This story is for the pure enjoyment of all Highlander fans and I am in no way being compensated for this.
The chilling January wind whipped around her as she approached the antique store. With numbing hands she fumbled for the right key to unlock the ornately carved door, which looked so out of place among the dilapidated buildings, deep in the center of New York's garment district. She found the right key, and pushed the heavy door with her right shoulder as she turned the lock.
The door slowly creaked open as it swung on hinges that squeaked for a touch of oil. Inside, she snapped on the lights and extracted her slim, dainty hands from their gloves, quickly stuffing the leather coverings deep in the pockets of her woolen coat. She removed the scarf from around her head, wrapping it around her coat collar and stood still for a moment, surveying the store.
The rain clouds had temporarily lifted and the sunlight streaming through the tall windows glinted off the suit of armor standing regally in the corner. Swords displayed on the walls gleamed with a shone beauty and various art pieces dotting the room stood still and quiet, as if waiting for someone to awaken them.
This was her domain, the place she felt most at home. She mused at the irony of that, considering she had a beautiful apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side. She crossed the room to the exquisite antique desk and removing her coat, sat down in the plush chair. The chill in the room caused her to shiver slightly, and she got up to adjust the thermostat to a warmer temperature. Connor had always kept the store chilly, a throwback to his Scottish heritage. She remembered with poignancy the times she and Connor had disagreed about how warm to keep their apartment when she was a child.
She had been cold and hungry throughout so much of her early childhood, wanting nothing more than a warm home and good food. Connor's Highland roots had made him long for the cool temperatures of his homeland. It had been the only bone of contention between them, albeit a small one, and had persisted until their last day together.
Their last day. Rachel closed her eyes and remembered it as if it had been yesterday. Connor, on his way to face the Kurgan. The look on his face; the resolve in his voice. "Rachel, there are instructions in the desk drawer and I want you to follow them. I've left a power of attorney for you. You'll have everything you need." She knew the moment she looked into his face, heard the slight tremor of his words. He wasn't coming back, even if he defeated the Kurgan.
Their time together had come to an end.
He reminded her that she had always known this day would come. Of course, in her head she did, but did it make it any easier to watch him walk through the door and out of her life forever? And just before he walked through that door, he turned to look back at her with a winsome smile and winked. "Hey, it's a kind of magic," his words an echo of those so long ago.
And Rachel had no choice but to watch him leave; this paradox of a man who had rescued her from the clutches of the Nazis and given her the first true home she had ever known. She closed her eyes, leaning back in her chair and remembered the first time she had laid eyes on the Highlander.
It was at the height of World War II in Europe. She had been an abandoned child, stuck in a dank, dreary orphanage managed by an overworked, underpaid staff that paid little heed to the very real needs of the children. She was continually cold because the orphanage used very little heat, money being almost non-existent, especially after the war started.
Food had been another matter. Meager rations of porridge, bread, vegetables and occasionally a Lilliputian piece of meat, had done little to satisfy her and had caused her growth to be affected. When she first laid eyes on Connor, she had been exceptionally small and thin for her six years. Even today, fifty years later, some of the effects of her poor start in life could still be detected. On the day Connor MacLeod found her, the orphanage had been bombed, and Rachel found herself among the rubble, unhurt and sitting amid the bodies of the other children.
She managed to hide herself behind some wooden scrap as bombs were exploding all around her and she heard the shouts of the soldiers amid the gunfire. Then, suddenly, he was there, pulling the boards away and squatting down to her eye level. Her dirty, stringy blonde hair hanging in her soot-smudged face, she lifted her huge, round, startlingly blue eyes to see a man with a kind face and soft voice.
He told her not to be afraid, that he was alone, just like her. He gently lifted her in his strong arms and was carrying her away when the shot rang out and he fell dead, pinning her against the ground with the weight of his body. His blood seeping all over her, she was too much in shock to voice a scream. Then she felt him move as he revived from death and lying perfectly still on top of her, motioned for her silence. As he waited for the soldier to come closer, she whispered in his ear, asking why he didn't die.
"Hey, it's a kind of magic." he whispered back to her. By surprise and expert skill, he managed to kill the Nazi soldier who instead of leaving had come closer to verify his slaughter. Connor then picked Rachel up, carrying her from the ruins of both the orphanage and her wretched life, into a world as charmed as any fairytale.
As she grew up and indeed blossomed into a young lady, Rachel soon learned that the 'magic' Connor had spoken of was, in fact, his Immortality. Connor did his best to keep that part of his world separate from his life with Rachel, but sometimes it was beyond even his capability to keep the effects of the 'game' from spilling over into her mortal existence.
Over the course of years, her relationship with Connor MacLeod took many forms. First, he was her surrogate father, spoiling her in some respects, but always teaching her how to be a kind, caring person with strong moral values. He personally saw to it that she was instructed in the ways of a lady, obtaining for her the best education his money could buy and sending her to the finest finishing school in Switzerland.
She had begun working part-time in his antique store when she was a teenager. Connor taught her so much about antiques and later, when she was ready, she earned her Master's degree in art from the Sorbonne. Rachel Ellensten, the grubby ragamuffin, had metamorphosed into a stunningly beautiful and cultured woman. Then, one balmy summer night, everything between them had changed.
Connor had come home from an Immortal fight with his wounds still in the process of healing. He looked like hell and could barely walk.
She never questioned him about his Immortal conquests and he seldom volunteered any information. By this time, it had become a silent understanding between them that his two worlds were to be kept separate, at least in as much as he could control it.
She helped him into his bathroom, running a warm bath for him. Then she silently undressed him and helped him into the tub. She took a washcloth and began sponging the blood and dirt from his body. As she ran her hand across his chest he reached out and caught her wrist in a strong, yet gentle hold. Their eyes met and the strong yearnings that Rachel had recently begun to feel for Connor suddenly surfaced from the deep recesses where she had pushed them, and they both knew that there would be no more denying.
She reached over, making the tentative first move, and gently kissed him. Not the chaste kiss on the cheek she had given him as a child, but the impassioned kiss of a woman's desire.
If Connor was surprised, he never showed it because his feelings for Rachel had also begun to change. And now, in this time, in this place, everything but his desire for her faded to darkness.
Rachel recalled their lovemaking that night and even now, she blushed at the remembrance. The Highlander had been both gentle, and at the same time, so ardent. His desire for her had taken her breath away, literally, and she recalled thinking that if he was as passionate in his fighting as he was in his lovemaking, his Immortal enemies didn't stand a chance.
By the time Connor had left to face the Kurgan, their physical relationship had long since ceased, both of them realizing there was no future in it.
Rachel knew Connor's heart was forever controlled by his memory of Heather, the first love of his life; so long ago buried but never perished from his heart. And Rachel also suspected, but was never able to confirm, that Connor felt small tinges of regret that he had allowed their passions to consume them. If this was indeed the case, she must confess that she didn't share the regret.
He had ushered her into womanhood in a gentle, loving manner and she would always be grateful to him. Her love for Connor was like a prism, refracting so many emotions.
Father, employer, lover, and through it all, her best, and at times, her only friend in this world. How had she found the strength to continue without his presence in her life? Because, she reminded herself, Connor MacLeod would always be a presence in her life, whether he was physically there or not. She felt him beside her with every fiber of her being. He had, after all, made her into the woman she was today.
Rachel was so lost in her thoughts; she didn't hear the door opening. It wasn't until a strong, arctic blast of January wind hit her that she realized she wasn't alone. She turned her attention to the young couple who had entered the store.
The woman was tall and blonde, very pretty and delicate. The man, whose back was turned to her as he studied a wall tapestry, was tall with dark hair pulled back into a ponytail. The pretty woman approached her, extending her hand and introducing herself.
"Hello. My name is Tessa Noel and I own an antique store in Washington State. A friend was visiting New York last month and came across your store. She told me I must see it if I was ever in the city. I understand you have some exquisite bronze sculptures, which I happen to be very interested in. Would it be possible for me to see them?"
Rachel smiled, introduced herself and told Tessa that all but two of the sculptures had been sold, but she was welcome to see the remaining ones. All the while they talked, her companion had kept his back turned to them, carefully moving from one art piece to another, engrossed in his examination of the surroundings.
Tessa noticed Rachel glancing at Duncan and turned her head, calling to get his attention. "Duncan, could you come over here for a minute?" Tessa said, turning her attention back to Rachel. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be rude. This is my partner Duncan MacLeod."
At the mention of his name, Rachel's face went a bit pale, but she recovered her surprise quickly and looked into the warm brown eyes that greeted her. She felt the strong warmth of his hand when he shook hers, and she had an intensely disquieting feeling.
Rachel quickly scanned his face for any resemblance, but found none. Where Connor had been fair, Duncan was dark. Their builds were both athletic, but Duncan's was much more defined.
"It's nice to meet you." Duncan said in his most charming manner.
Rachel couldn't take her eyes off this exceptionally handsome man. She couldn't put her finger on it, but there was something about him that seemed familiar. Finally, she managed to tear her eyes away and focus her attention back to Tessa. She asked Tessa to follow her to the back of the store where the two bronze sculptures were kept. Duncan stayed behind, continuing his examination of her inventory.
Rachel pointed out the sculptures to Tessa, but couldn't concentrate on what Tessa was saying about them. Everything had ceased to matter at the moment, save for the dark handsome man who bore the same sir name as the one true love of her life. She excused herself, murmuring something to the effect that Tessa could take as long as she liked with the sculptures.
She made her way back into the main area of the store, just as Duncan was lifting one of the swords from it's display mount. A thirteenth century single-handed broadsword with lenticular cross-section and a fuller on each side. She stopped, staying partially hidden in the shadows as she watched him handle the ancient sword.
He took his time becoming comfortable with the weight, feel and balance of the blade before moving with it. He started slowly, with sharp, steady twisting wrist movements that flowed into smooth slices and quick, sure parries and thrusts.
Rachel was mesmerized by his fencing style, not only because it was fluid poetry in motion, but more importantly, because she instantly recognized the moves, having seen Connor's sword practices almost her entire life. Watching this tall handsome stranger move masterfully and controlling the blade flawlessly, she knew he had either taught or been taught by Connor MacLeod. It could be no coincidence the two shared both the same name and exact fencing form.
Rachel let out her breath slowly and started to retreat back to where Tessa was still examining the sculptures, but stopped short when she heard Duncan's voice.
"Please stay." his tone almost more of a command than a request.
She stopped and turned to face him, walking slowly out of the shadows.
"This is an excellent piece." Duncan exclaimed. "Would you happen to have any Claymore's?"
Rachel's lips formed a small smile. It was a question she had been anticipating. She looked into the handsome stranger's dark eyes, which fleetingly reminded her of deep pools of chocolate. It took only a few seconds to determine her response. None that are for sale. But, if you are interested in just looking." She let her voice trail off.
Duncan smiled, assuring her he was continually interested in purchasing, but also always enjoyed admiring fine works.
Rachel led Duncan through a small door located directly behind her desk, which she kept locked at all times. This had been Connor's special room where he had kept his most prized possessions. And when he had gone, he had left them there with full knowledge she would keep them safe. And she had, waiting and hoping for the moment when he would return for them. Making the choice to let Duncan view them had been a precarious, yet at the same time, almost natural decision.
She could see recognition in Duncan's face as he glanced around the room at Connor's possessions. If she had ever really questioned that the two MacLeod's were connected in some way, his expression put all doubts to rest.She walked directly to stand where Connor's sixteenth century Claymore was mounted to the wall.
Duncan walked over and stood beside her. He turned his questioning eyes to her and they both knew the time had come for full disclosure. "Where is he?" Duncan's words were quiet and simple.
"I wish I knew. God, how I wish I knew." she replied.
Duncan picked up the Claymore, turning it over in his hands as the sixty-inch blade glistened in the soft light from a nearby lamp. The familiar sight of Connor's sword transported him back in time to his homeland in Glenfinnan, Scotland, on the shores of Loch Shiel. For an instant, he was again kneeling beside his father's deathbed as his mother's words echoed in his ears, telling him to claim his father's sword as the true MacLeod he was and always would be.
"You're Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. Let no man tell you different."
Connor's Claymore, so much like his own father's, had provoked long recessed feelings to surface. Unwanted tears welled in his eyes at the powerful memory and it took him a moment to regain his composure. He sheathed the blade and gingerly replaced the sword in its mount. Then he turned to Rachel nd took both of her hands in his own. "You've taken great care of Connor's belongings. You obviously care for him a great deal."
"I love him with all my heart, but I wonder if I will ever see him again. I have to believe that he has survived."
Duncan nodded his understanding. "He's alive. I'd know if he something had happened to him."
Rachel smiled and her eyes lit up. "I know, somehow I think I would feel it, too. It's funny, but the moment I saw you, I felt a connection to him. Does that sound strange?"
Duncan looked into her glowing face, now showing signs of age, but still reflecting the beauty it once held. He didn't know the exact relationship she once had with Connor, although he could make a very good presumption. In a way, she was not unlike Linda Plager, an old love of his own he had connected with again shortly before her death. Not that Rachel was in any danger of passing away soon, just that the same light seemed to reflect in her eyes at the mention of Connor's name that he had seen in Linda's when she had looked at him.
They talked for a short while, both momentarily forgetting about Tessa and the store as they shared a few of their memories of Connor. Duncan told her how he and Connor belonged to the same Clan and how it was Connor who taught him what it meant to be an Immortal. Over the centuries Connor had become more to him than a mentor; he had become Duncan's family.
Rachel smiled and nodded her understanding, telling Duncan that Connor had also been her family, in fact, the only one she had ever known.
In a very short time, Mac and Rachel had bonded together through their mutual love and respect of Connor. Once again, despite in his absence, Connor had managed to touch and effect both their lives. After spending time listening to Duncan speak fondly of Connor with an unmistakable expression of affection, Rachel made a decision. "Duncan, I'm changing my will to leave Connor's possessions to you in the event something happens to me. I know you will see to it he gets them, after all, you two are very much alike."
Duncan slowly nodded. "Perhaps. However, Connor and I are very different people."
"Maybe on the surface." she replied. "But deep inside, the two of you share the same soul."
Duncan reflected on her words for a moment, realizing how wise this woman was. He and Connor were very different, yet she was right. They both shared the same mortal and Immortal heritage, the same systematic view of life and the 'game', although it sometimes took Connor's pragmatism to remind Duncan of that.
They both heard a small noise and turned toward the door to see Tessa's head peek inside. "I was wondering what happened to you two." she said.
Duncan face broke into a grin as he motioned for Tessa to come inside. Tessa's eyes widened in astonishment when she glanced around the room at all of Connor's possessions.
Duncan noted the look in her eyes along with her facial expression. After all their years together, reading her thoughts at this moment was effortless. "Forget it! None of this stuff is for sale. It all belongs to Connor." he said.
Tessa gave him a surprised and confused look.
Duncan put his hand on her back, applying a slight pressure to turn her around toward the door. "Never mind, I'll explain it all in the car on the way to the airport," he replied.
As Rachel escorted them to the door, she told Duncan he would be hearing from her lawyer about the revisions in her will.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" he softly questioned.
"Yes. It's the only piece of mind I'll have about it. If I never see Connor again, at least I'll know his possessions are with you for safe keeping; and, God willing, will be returned to him someday."
Duncan nodded in agreement.
Tessa had already stepped outside into the cold windy street.
As Duncan followed her through the door, Rachel put her hand on his arm, momentarily stopping him. He turned back to her. "Godspeed, Duncan and take care." She whispered.
"I will. And in case our paths don't cross again, I want to say thank you for everything you have meant to Connor. Being a man of few words, he isn't always very forthcoming with his feelings.
"I know. I think Immortality tends to make you introspective. Frankly, I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like for the two of you," Rachel confided.
Duncan gave her a big grin as he turned the door handle.
"It's a kind of magic," he said as he walked through the doorway to join a waiting Tessa.
For a second time Rachel stood and watched a handsome Highlander walk out of her life after uttering those very simple words. A kind of magic indeed.